Android-based GameStick won't replace your Xbox... not yet, anyway
Will 2013 be the year of the Android home console? It will certainly be the year that various startups around the world have a crack at it, with multiple takes on the concept set to launch in the coming months.
We're all aware of the Ouya
, of course -- a tiny box meant to sit alongside your Xboxes, PlayStations and Wiis, that funnels Android games directly through to your television.
Then there's the Green Throttle wireless game controller
, which aims to turn your Android mobile device instantly into a game console. Each solution is just cheap enough such that it may well be worth checking out whether you're hugely interested or not.
PlayJam's GameStick, revealed earlier this week
, is looking to trump the competition in as many areas as possible, as quickly as possible.
If size matters to you, the GameStick may well be for you: It's but the size of a USB stick, and will slot either directly into the back of your TV, or into the supplied Bluetooth controller. If you're all about grabbing a bargain, PlayJam's hardware is $79 -- $20 cheaper than the Ouya.
As for games, PlayJam says that the device will work with at least 200 Android titles from launch, although the team reckons that its GameStick can handle thousands of different Android-based titles thanks to different "modes" that the Bluetooth controller can launch into, acting as either a joystick, a mouse or a keyboard.
"The affordable games revolution has brought on the age of affordable gaming," says Anthony Johnson, CMO at PlayJam.
"GameStick is not going to replace the Xbox any time soon in terms of core gaming, but that is not our aim today," he adds. "We want to leverage the TV, the thousands of great games available today and a fully featured controller to create a console-like games experience without the associated price tag."
Johnson is well aware of the Ouya and the effort that PlayJam needs to put in to overcome the hype surrounding the competition. Notably the GameStick is due to launch in April -- the same month that the Ouya is released to consumers.
"Competition is great," he says. "We are the proof, I suppose, as in the short time that Android games consoles have started to come through, we have been able to develop even further and push the boundaries in terms of manufacturing to create a powerful yet extremely portable device."
But what of fragmentation? The Android platform is already known for its awful spread of OS versions and ranging resolution sizes, meaning that developers have to plan ahead for multiple different versions if they want to release on Android. Won't multiple Android consoles running various different setups result in an even worse scenario?
Says Johnson, "With regards to fragmentation there are two approaches: One, to create a device that 'should' technically work with any game in the Play Store. Or two, to ensure that only games that are fully compatible are available on your device, thereby providing a great user experience every time."
PlayJam is opting for the latter, locking out any titles that don't fully work with the provided control scheme.
"This way we know that the consumer will be getting great content that works seamlessly with the GameStick and our network," he says. "This will of course involve only a light touch from developers in terms of key-mapping and simple billing options to make their games for GameStick."
Interesting parties can pre-order a GameStick by pledging to the GameJam Kickstarter
-- a campaign which is rapidly approaching its goal of $100,000 with only 24 hours of crowdfunding under its belt.